Present day, alternate reality. Captain Carina Mitela of the Praetorian Guard Special Forces is in trouble – one colleague has tried to kill her and another has set a trap to incriminate her in a conspiracy to topple the government of Roma Nova. Founded sixteen hundred years ago by Roman dissidents and ruled by women, Roma Nova barely survived a devastating coup d’état thirty years ago. Carina swears to prevent a repeat and not merely for love of country.
Seeking help from a not quite legal old friend could wreck her marriage to the enigmatic Conrad. Once proscribed and operating illegally, she risks being terminated by both security services and conspirators. As she struggles to overcome the desperate odds and save her beloved Roma Nova and her own life, she faces the ultimate betrayal…
Well, if the above blurb doesn't hook you in, then nothing will. This is a thriller that at least matches, excels even, all expectations you might have of similar books. More realistic than the James Bond movies, PERFIDITAS goes way beyond anything that has been done before. Set in an alternative, but similar to the world of today, Roma Nova is a fascinating concept, created by the incredibly intelligent mind of the author, and drawn from her love of all things Roman.
Before I began reading, I was under the impression that you didn't need to read the first in the series, (INCEPTIO), before you read PERFIDITAS, and although there is an intro describing the alternate historical background of the whole world, plus a list of characters placed in their contexts, I felt that due to the fast pace of the book, and the amount of characters Ms Morton juggles, a new reader would find it hard going to know what, who, when and why. So, I felt that I was at an advantage, having read INCEPTIO, and was glad that I had, for it enabled me to understand the wonderful intriguing world I was immersing myself in
I loved the idea of Rome continuing after its fall in the 5thc and beginning again in a new state, with the name of Roma Nova: New Rome. And the fact that it was ruled by women, because hey, the guys did a terrible job, didn't they; adds a whole new dynamic to the concept. Ms Morton has formulated this new Rome using the most prominent elements from their past, such as the language, Latin of course, the Praetorian Guard, which still exists, Domus, the name used for home, and amusingly, the old Roman gods as a way of swearing. "Juno!", is one example. All this serves to create a believable, fascinating world, that is not only modern, it is leading the world with its advanced technology and systems; one such example is the el-pad; got an idea what that is? What is even more extraordinary, is that Morton devises new customs for the Roma Novans, some of which have been part of this new world's traditions going back over 1500 years. I particularly liked the Twelve Family code which, under this, a noble family has the right to question a delinquent member of their family whom they believe has committed some criminal offence. You see, when Rome collapsed 1500 years (or there abouts) earlier, amongst those who made the exodus to what was to become Roma Nova, were 12 of the noblest families. These families were the most powerful ruling clans, and in the 21stc, their status as such is still preserved, with women always at the head of the clan. To balance this power, members of the twelve families have a greater responsibility of service to the state and are expected to behave better than the average citizen.
This book is definitely plot driven, and told through the eyes of Countess Carina, therefore this, and the fast pace, has to be taken into consideration when examining the characterisation of all the players. There were many characters of which I would have liked to know more about their emotions and their inner machinations. This is probably more difficult to do when writing in the first person, as Ms Morton does. That is one of my pet annoyances of books written in the first person, because I like to get right into the minds of the characters and feel that I am within them. All that aside, I can still read, and enjoy books written in this method, though they are few and far between, and this second book in the Roma Nova series I have selected as being one of them. as it is so unique in its presentation.
I enjoyed Carina's character, she is not the shy, retiring type, she gets things done, and often her maverick -style way of doing things, gets her in all sorts of trouble. Her husband, the hunky Conrad, who has taken her family name as his own in the new Roman tradition, finds this aspect of her, less endearing than perhaps he should, but he is not only her husband but her work superior, and this can be conflicting for the couple. With such strong personalities, there are bound to be the usual disagreements and as well as the trouble on the home front, the couple are faced with difficulties aplenty as the plot unfolds. And it does so, very quickly, I might add, for soon it is obvious that someone is out to get both Carina and her husband. And when I say 'get' I mean, totally destroy in the most horrible, nasty way achievable.
Roma Nova, as you may have probably guessed by now, had only survived because of their social structure. Women no longer were assigned to the confines of their homes, playing good little wives, they had become the heads of their families, whilst the men were constantly at war in those early days of their colonies' survival. The women's take over of their governing systems, meant that both men, and women, now, would have to perform 'service' to their country and that ethos seems to have continued right into the 21st century. A tiny country hidden away between New Austria and Italy, Roma Nova had become one of the most powerful, rich states in the world, surrounded by bigger boys who possibly want to take over. They had to be tough in order to survive, following a male dominated brutal consulship and civil war. And there are strains of modern day Israel's kick ass attitude, in the way they run their regime:
...with characteristic resilience, the families' structures fought back and reconstructed their society, re-learning the basic principles of Republican virtue, while subtly changing it to a more representational model for modern times.But what has this book got to offer? For one, Ms Morton has a snappy, concise style of writing that flows beautifully. The pace and atmosphere are just at the right speed and mood. The characters, are many, and sometimes when a new name popped up, I had trouble remembering who they were, despite having read the first book. Thank goodness there is a cast list in the form of a Dramatis Personae of all the characters and from which section of society they belong. Please readers remember to look in the back of the book for this. However, that aside, my enjoyment of reading this book was not hampered by this little niggle.
It is quite clear that Ms Morton is an excellent writer and story-teller. She has her own unique voice when conjuring up her plot lines. The world she has built is done so with integrity. It is formulated and constructed with faithful authenticity and is representational of a true society with its origins in Rome. I am sure that most readers will enjoy jumping into the arena of 21st century Rome, and will wholly accept the offer of a ride into the dark, almost invisible world of intelligence and criminality in this exciting, cleverly manufactured tale.
This is a book I would highly recommend to those who enjoy alternative fiction, where events from the past have different endings, pushing the future into different pathways to produce a new, fresh world with which to play in. Also, if you enjoy thrillers, with espionage and intelligence as its background, you will love this book. Highly recommended.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison Morton continues to be fascinated by that complex, power and value driven civilisation. Armed with a masters’ in history, six years’ military service and the love of a good thriller, she explores via her award winning Roma Nova adventure thrillers the ‘what if’ idea of a modern Roman society run by strong women.
The sixth book, RETALIO, will be published on 27 April. In the meantime, Alison lives in France with her husband, tends her Roman herb garden and drinks wine.
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